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Joint statement at the closure of the 8th Ordinary Assembly of the AU

January 31, 2007

Civil Society Organisations and MDG campaigners welcomed the adoption of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, but call for greater urgency in protecting citizens and ensuring their effective participation in the affairs of the Union.

While the adoption of the democracy charter indicates AU member states' commitment to democratic governance, there is urgent need to strengthen implementation of AU standards. This will require effective arrangements at the national, sub-regional and continental levels that ensure adherence and enforcement. "With more than 15 countries undergoing parliamentary or presidential elections in 2007, three of them being among the continent's biggest economies including Angola, Kenya and Nigeria, the immediate importance of a continental Democracy Charter is clear" says Ozias Tungwarara Director of AfriMAP. "These member-states should be in the forefront of moves to ratify the Charter," he continues. The civil organisations committed to popularise the Democracy Charter in their respective countries.

However, civil society organisations also expressed their regret that the charter itself was developed without much opportunity for African citizens or civil society to contribute to and strengthen its content.

With 350 people dead and tens of thousands displaced in the month of this Summit, the urgency to act in Darfur, Sudan to bring an immediate halt to attacks on citizens is paramount. "Like Khartoum, this Summit closed without strong enough pressure on all parties to cease attacks on civilians. A quick strong AU- UN force will be a giant step in the right direction, but the men and women and children of Darfur need to be safe from attacks now, not three or six months away" says Désiré Assogbavi Pan Africa Senior Policy analyst at Oxfam.

The launch of the International Year of African football and the 50th anniversary of the International Confederation of African football was also major focus of the Summit. Less prominent was 2007 being the mid-point of the 2015 target set for the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. The need for a year of increased political commitment backed up by public financing by African Governments is perhaps clearer for the continent's poor.

By the Summit's own admission, 27% of Africa's men, women and children are undernourished and reliant on agricultural imports and food relief. AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis threaten life on a scale unparalleled, erases between 1-2% of Africa's growth rate and reduces life expectancy by 25% for some countries. Yet, less than five countries are close to meeting the Abuja Commitment to allocate 15% of the national budget to health services and only three countries have met or exceeded the Sirte Commitment to allocate 10% of their budgets to agriculture.

"If 2007 is the International year of African football, then failure to publicly finance the Millennium Declaration Goals, will result in several own goals across the continent. Civil Society and Governments must review Africa's progress towards meeting the MDGs in the July Summit. They must report to their own citizens before rushing to the UN General Assembly in September. We do not need excuses; we want concrete actions " says Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Rahim, Director for Africa for the United Nations Millennium Campaign.

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